This is a look behind the scenes at how Zen Arcadia’s “Earthquakes” video was created.
The idea for the video started with the earthquake theme of the album and Zen Arcadia’s bass player’s work with concrete. The Picture Division got involved and almost a year later, the germ of an idea became a music video…
Step 1: The Buildings
The building walls and roadway in the video were individually created from concrete using molds. The task started by cutting out hundreds and hundreds of window forms out of styrofoam. Each building wall mold was built as a wood frame on plywood, the window cutouts were then aligned and glued to the plywood form. Fiber reinforced type III concrete was used to make the thin walls as strong as possible, re-mesh was also used to to give strength and prevent the wall forms from cracking. Once out of the molds, the styrofoam window blanks were removed and the wall sections were glued together using concrete crack filler/glue.
Step 2: Filming the Concrete City
Best plans to use the bountiful California summer sunlight as a perfect light source were put to the test when the shoot date turned out to be the windiest day ever… A giant green-screen was set up and stretched to perfection, but the wind had other plans. We did the best we could to keep the screen stretched and not moving but the wind won in the end.
A Blackmagic Pocket Camera was used for the video shoot along with a specially engineered “cardboard box sun shade” because of the camera’s terrible screen that is barely visible in sunlight. Camera rigs including a dolly and a jib helped us steady the shots.
Step 3: Filming the Band in 3D
To film the band in 3D Jason at The Picture Division built a special tripod mount that aligns an XBox 360 Kinect to a video camera. Both video and 3D data were captured simultaneously using DepthKit.
Step 4: Editing the Video
The initial editing of the video was done in Premiere Pro. Using the audio track as a guide the video was put together using the concrete building shots and the 2D video footage that was shot at the same time as the 3D data/video.
Once the video’s shots had been finalized the green screen background was removed, this proved to be very challenging as the previously mentioned windy video shoot that reaped havoc on the keying process.
Shots where the buildings are shaking were slowed down using Twixtor. This slowed down footage helped give the shaking motion a more correct scale relative to the size of the models. The shots were then composited onto backgrounds. During the shaking scenes, footage of dust and falling debris were composited into the scenes to add to the destruction.
Step 5: Creating the 3D Video
The 3D shots of the band were exported from Depthkit as .obj sequences and imported into After Effects using Trapcode Form. These .obj sequences were then manipulated and processed in After Effects and composited into a 2.5D (flat planes arranged in 3D space) room setup in After Effects using digitally painted textures.
Video: Process of turning 3D data points
Step 6: Color Grading
The final video was exported out of After Effects and imported into DaVinci Resolve where a base technical grade was applied to the video to balance the image and then a final look was added using a combination of a film emulation LUT with shot by shot adjustments. Finally, a layer of scanned 16mm film grain was composited on top.
Step 7: The End
The concrete city now lives in a garden. dB-zilla added for scale